U.S. officials are preparing to announce restrictions to Russian military flights over American territory under the Treaty on Open Skies in the latest sign of strain in U.S.-Russia relations.
The treaty, part of a suite of arms-control, transparency and confidence-building agreements that proliferated in the late stages of the Cold War, permits its 34 ratified member states to conduct observation flights over each other’s territory while capturing aerial imagery of military personnel and materiel.
Treaty-related tensions intensified over two days in August, when a Russian plane operating under Open Skies flew over U.S. cities including Washington as well as Bedminster, N.J., while President Trump was staying at the Trump National Golf Club in the town.
Those flights, however, aren’t the cause of the new restrictions, according to U.S. officials. Instead, they assert that Russia is in violation of the Open Skies treaty, because the Kremlin imposed restrictions on flights over Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave, which U.S. officials believe is host to a cache of sophisticated weaponry.
A recent Indian court order suspending the jail terms of three young men guilty of gang-rape and blackmail, even labelling the victim as “promiscuous”, stands out for being regressive, writes the BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi.
A two-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court awarded bail to three law students from the elite Jindal Global Law School who had been convicted by a lower court in March for blackmailing and gang-raping a fellow student.
Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while their friend Vikas Garg was handed a seven-year term. They were all also found guilty of other crimes and given smaller terms, but these were to run concurrently.
According to court documents, the young woman had a consensual relationship with Sikri in November 2013 which lasted a month, after which she broke up with him.
But for the next 18 months, he used her nude photographs to blackmail her and rape her. Not just that, he also forced her to have sex with his two friends and on one occasion, Sikri and Chhabra gang-raped her.
The convicts appealed in the high court and asked to be freed on bail while the case was being heard – and the court agreed.
How myths and stereotypes colour rape sentencing in India
Delhi rapist says victim shouldn’t have fought back
In a country where thousands of people under trial languish in prison for decades, often for minor crimes, it is shocking that men convicted of crimes as serious as gang-rape and blackmail were freed on bail.
What is worse is that the short 12-page court order is littered with statements that have been described by the Indian media as some of the “worst examples of victim shaming”.
The young woman was castigated for drinking beer, smoking, taking drugs, keeping condoms in her room and not confiding in her parents that she was being abused.
Here are some excerpts from the judgement:
The victim’s testimony “offers an alternate story of casual relationship with her friends, acquaintances, adventurism and experimentation in sexual encounters”.
Her “allegations regarding her being threatened into submission and blackmail lend sufficient diabolism to the offence, but a careful examination of her statement again offers an alternate conclusion of misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”.
Her “narrative does not throw up gut wrenching violence that normally precede or accompany such incidents”.
Read the full court order
In their order, Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Raj Shekhar Attri said they intended “to balance the concerns of the victim, demands of the society and law and the element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice”.
“It would be a travesty if these young minds are confined to jail for an inordinate long period which would deprive them of their education, opportunity to redeem themselves and be a part of the society as normal beings,” they added.
Predictably, the court order has been greeted with howls of protest in India. Many took to social media to express their anger and the victim’s friends started a petition on change.org condemning the judgement.
Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy told the BBC that the order “implies she had no right not to be raped”.
A judgement like this, she says, takes away hard-won victories for women’s legal equality.
“This order seems to be innocent of the legal definition of consent and of the judgements of the Supreme Court that are quite clear that even a woman of ‘easy virtue’ may well withhold consent. Any sex after that is rape,” Ms Nundy says.
In a society steeped in patriarchy, it’s not uncommon for women to be blamed for inviting sexual assault and rape. Victims are often blamed for wearing short skirts or jeans, having boyfriends, being out late at night, or even talking on mobile phones.
In fact, until 2003, we even had a law that allowed victim shaming.
Under Section 155(4) of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, it was essentially the rape victims who were put on trial and the accused were often allowed to go scot-free if they could prove that “the victim was of generally immoral character”.
In 1980, the Law Commission suggested that the archaic law be amended and in 2000, the Commission recommended its deletion, saying that it could destroy a victim’s reputation and self-respect.
Decades later, however, victims continue to be shamed.
Indonesia has warned that the active volcano on the tourist island of Bali is entering a “critical phase”, amid fears of an imminent eruption.
Hundreds of tremors were recorded on Monday at Mount Agung, in an increase of volcanic activity.
But officials also stressed they could not predict when it might erupt.
More than 57,000 people living near the mountain have been evacuated from their homes, and the area is under the highest level volcano alert.
Indonesia’s national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters on Monday that “volcanic activity is increasing, and tremors are being becoming more frequent”.
He added: “There is a definite possibility that it will erupt, however we don’t know when it will happen.”
More than 560 volcanic tremors were detected on Monday alone, according to the national volcanology centre.
What’s happening at Mt Agung?
Officials started detecting shallow tremors in late August. Within days the volcano showed increasing signs of activity, and authorities stepped up their alerts and evacuations of the rural villages surrounding the mountain.
Thousands are now living in temporary shelters at town halls and schools after authorities imposed a 12km (7.5-mile) exclusion zone around the mountain.
Rebecca Henschke, Editor, BBC Indonesian
When Mount Agung rumbles, the Balinese believe the gods are angry. Everything on the island exists in relation to the giant volcano.
Some religious leaders say tourists behaving badly and disrespecting customs are to blame for its current activity.
Now, in temples across Bali, feverish offerings are being made. And in some villages inside the danger zone, people are waiting for spiritual signs from priests and those believed to able to communicate with the volcano, before coming down.
The government is telling them to leave now. The last time Agung erupted in 1963, people had just minutes to flee.
Concern for livestock is stopping some people from leaving this time. And there are farmers who are returning daily to the danger zone so they can feed animals they can’t take with them.
A local animal rights group is trying to help, evacuating animals left behind or releasing them so they can at least run.
The national disaster agency said in its Tuesday statement (link in Indonesian) that 57,428 people had moved out of their homes and some had been received in “sister villages”, which are neighbouring villages prepared to receive evacuees.
It added that volunteers were helping to evacuate cattle from the danger zone.
The island’s main tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak, which are about 70km from the mountain, remain unaffected for now. Flight operations are also normal.
Several countries including Britain, Australia and Singapore have issued travel advisories for their citizens, warning of possible flight disruption and evacuations.
More than 1,000 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.
Mount Agung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia – an archipelago prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.
Police say the gunman, identified in Israeli media as Nimer Jamal, struck after he raised suspicions of security personnel at a rear gate at Har Adar.
He shot his victims at close-range, seriously wounding one person as well, before being shot by security forces.
The gunman was a father-of-four who had an Israeli permit to work in Jewish settlements along the boundary of the West Bank, Israel’s internal security agency said.
He came from the village of Beit Surik, about a mile east of Har Adar.
The area is about 18km (11 miles) north-west of Jerusalem.
No group has taken responsibility for the attack, although Gaza-based Palestinian militant organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad welcomed it.
The head of the Information Office of Fatah, the political faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel bore responsibility for the attack, because of its “continuous aggression” against the Palestinians.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the “terrible attack at Har Adar is the Palestinian reception” for the US envoy.
Wave of attacks
About 36,000 Palestinians have permits to work in Jewish settlements, where security to guard against attacks is tight.
The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Tuesday’s attack is the latest in a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings of Israelis predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.
Since then, some 50 Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed in such attacks in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Around 300 Palestinians – most of them assailants, Israel says – have also been killed in that period, according to AFP news agency. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.
Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.
The tightening of online censorship comes as China steps up security ahead of the Communist Party’s national congress which is held every five years.
“The run-up period to a gathering is normally a time of greater restrictions of all kinds to assure that the critical Party Congress is held under ideal social conditions and is not disrupted”, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, long-time advisor to China’s leaders and multinational corporations told the BBC.
However, he said it is not yet clear whether the restrictions will be relaxed as has happened after previous party congresses, adding that many analysts do not believe they will be.
WhatsApp has declined to comment on the latest clampdown.
Analysis – Stephen McDonell, BBC China correspondent, Beijing
Last week word started spreading around other platforms… “Is WhatsApp blocked?”
The replies would come in: “You need to use a VPN”. Then the VPNs were being blocked.
Welcome to online China in the run-up to the Communist Party Congress.
Taking out WhatsApp has no impact on most Chinese people. They don’t use it. The unrivalled king of cyberspace in this country is WeChat (or, in Chinese, Weixin 微信)
You would really struggle to find somebody here not using WeChat to send messages, share photos, swap locations, flirt, read news and pay for pretty much everything. This all-encompassing app at the centre of people’s lives is available for the Communist Party to spy on the entire population.
WhatsApp is not – at least not to the same extent.
So, during this sensitive time leading up to the once-in-five-years Party Congress, those with responsibility for censoring social media are nervous.
They worry that somebody may use an app beyond their complete control to, for example, organise a protest or post a funny photo of President Xi Jinping and for this to somehow go under their radar.
WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption which ensures only the sender and recipient can view the content of messages.
It also prevents Facebook from knowing what is said in any text, voice and video conversation being communicated on WhatsApp.
“China has shown little tolerance to encryption especially on platforms that can be used to share materials or potential propaganda,” Bill Taylor-Mountford, Asia Pacific vice president for LogRhythm told the BBC.
The latest disruption to WhatsApp appears to be part of a broader crackdown on the internet and online content in China.
On Monday, China’s cyber watchdog handed down maximum penalties to some of the country’s top technology firms including Tencent, Baidu and Weibo for failing to properly censor online content.
The penalties were imposed for failing to remove fake news and pornography, as well as content that authorities said “incites ethic tension” and “threatens social order”.
In July, his ratings had dropped to less than 30% but then recovered to above 50% in September.
He denies allegations of cronyism and on Monday said dissolving the lower house was not an attempt at avoiding those allegations.
Mr Abe is also is trying to push through a controversial shift in Japan’s post-war pacifist defence policy, calling for formal recognition of the military in the constitution.
Who will he be running against?
While Mr Abe’s tough stance on North Korea has helped him regain support, his Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) campaign is also expected to focus on social policies at home.
The main opposition Democratic Party went through a tumultuous leadership resignation in July and is currently struggling with single-digit poll ratings.
But Mr Abe faces a new challenge from a former LDP cabinet member, current Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who earlier on Monday announced she was forming a new national political party.
If current opinion polls are confirmed at the ballot box in October, Mr Abe will remain prime minister but his current coalition with the smaller Komeito party might fail to secure the two-thirds majority needed for his plan to revise the constitution.
If he wins another term, it would put Mr Abe on track to becoming the country’s longest-serving political leader in Japan’s post-war history.